friend of lovers
Traditionally, we think of Valentine’s Day as a day of romance and love, but is that really what it is all about? There are several versions of the background surrounding Valentine’s Day, and all of them include St Valentine. The one I find most intriguing involved not love and romance exactly, but rather a time when it was not allowed. St Valentine was a priest who lived around 270 AD in Rome. He found himself at odds with the Roman emperor of the time, Claudius II.
During Saint Valentine’s life time, and under the ruling of Claudius II and other insane administrators, the quality of life in Rome, what had previously been known as the Golden Era, came to an end. There was strife, education declined, taxation increased, and trade declined. This caused a need for more and more soldiers and officers to protect the nation from takeover by the Gauls, Slavs, Huns, Turks and Mongolians from Northern Europe and Asia. In his insanity, Claudius II felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and thus, will not make good soldiers, and he needed many soldiers now. He believed that marriage made the men weak. So he issued an decree forbidding marriage to assure quality soldiers
The people of Rome were afraid of the emperor, and when he made the decision to ban marriage, the people dared not protest, even though they were shocked. If Claudius II had given any thought to the consequences of his ban, he might have realized how futile it was. If the people did not marry, or at least reproduce, his army would dwindle down to nothing in a matter of years, and if they did at least reproduce, weren’t they still having the same emotional ties as married people? This just goes to show how insane Claudius II was.
Saint Valentine was a bishop at this time in history, and so began holding secret marriage ceremonies for the soldiers, in complete opposition to Claudius II’s ruling. Saint Valentine was a kindly bishop, and he saw the trauma the unjust decree was causing to young lovers, who had given up all hope of marrying and having children. So, he began secretly performing these marriage ceremonies on the soldiers and their young ladies. Unfortunately, these marriages could not remain hidden for long, and when Claudius II found out about this “friend of lovers”, he was furious. Saint Valentine was arrested and put in prison. Claudius II was impressed with Saint Valentine, when he met him, but when he would not convert to the Roman gods and agree to abide by the marriage ban, Claudius II was angered, and sentenced him to death.
While awaiting his death sentence, Saint Valentine was approached by his jailor, Asterius whose daughter was blind. Asterius had heard that Saint Valentine was a healer. He asked him to heal his daughter, who was blind. Saint Valentine prayed and the jailor’s daughter was healed. After she was healed, a deep friendship developed between Saint Valentine and the jailor’s daughter, and she was grieved over his imminent death. Right before he was beheaded, Saint Valentine wrote her a farewell message, and signed it “From your Valentine”. It is this note that is said to have begun the traditional Valentine card. Saint Valentine is believe to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD, hence the date for our romantic holiday. In reality it is a day to celebrate the Friend of Lovers. Happy Valentines Day!!